The Valhalla Mountains of British Columbia are an alpine rock climber's paradise. This is especially true for climbers who like putting up new routes because the Valhallas were left out of the guidebook Selkirks South
Climbers have always used just a small part of the Valhalla range, the Mulvey Creek Cirque. Dag Peak, Wolfs Ears, Mount Gimli
. CLIMBING HISTORY
The first really big Valhallas news was in 1972 when John Roskelly and Roy Kligfield put up the first Yosemite-style grade VI in Canada's mountains on the 3,000 foot north face of Dag Peak; Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
(VI, 5.9, A2,no fixed ropes or chopper).
Soon after, delving higher into the Mulvey Peaks, Peter Rowat and company discovered the South Ridge
of Mount Gimli; an ultra-classic pillar (III+/5.10a).
MOUNT GIMLI-WEST FACE
All known routes marked approximately.
The pioneers of technical climbing endured horrendous brush fights to access the Valhallas; Roskelley, Rowat, Fred Beckey and a very few others . Today, a logging road and trail have changed the game.
Most recently, mountain guide David Lussier, master-of-Gimli JT Croston, guide book authors Aaron Kristiansen & Vince Hempsall, and their friends have added both modern and traditional routes. Also, they have proven that there is more to the Valhallas than the Mulvey Peaks.
The first complete guidebook to the area is being compiled by David Lussier. The summer of 2014, maybe even 2015, would be a good time to make your mark before publication. LOCATION
For a general view of where the Valhallas are, click the painted Roadmap
right of the weather forecast. THE BIG WALLS OF THE VALHALLA MOUNTAINS
The rock is metamorphic gneiss with numerous horizontal black bands forming good holds. The walls are like an alpine version of Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado; not at all like the hand-hold starved granite of the Bugaboos. MOUNT GIMLI (9,200 ft)
Gimli is a monolith almost on the scale of Half Dome.
MOUNT GIMLI'S SPACE BUTTRESS
Overhung enough to stay dry.
All known routes marked approximately.
The long knife-edged south ridge has big walls on both sides. The west face is the biggest of these walls, much wider than it seems in the photo. The most modern route is Space Buttress (5.12, 20 bolts, 8 pitches). MOUNT ASGARD (9,200')
The routes on the east face of Asgard are reported to be steep with lots of nice holds. From left, West Ridge
(5.7, East Face-Left Side
(5.8), East Face-Center Route
(5.8), and the latest modern route Etoile Filante
, (5.11c, approx 25 bolts, 7 pitches). The three trad-route ratings may be sandbags, like the original grade for Gimli's South Ridge
Taken from Gimli-Nisleheim col.
The fuzzy image below is from page 10 of the local guidebook, West Kootenay Rock
and is an advertisement for Gravity Unlimited Adventures
, the local gym. Mt Asgard is not described in the book. I'd bet there are very few completed routes on the northwest side of Asgard. DAG PEAK (8,800 feet)
If size matters and your looking for something bigger than the Black Canyon, then Dag's north side might be for you. Four difficult grade VI routes have been done. Route descriptions indicate that all the routes follow major cracks and chimneys. Gimli and Asgard both have seen limited power drill use, but not Dag Peak. I do not own a photo of the biggest wall in the Valhallas to post here. Steph Abegg has posted lots of very nice images of Dag's north face on summitpost.com
. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
(5.9, A2) was the first grade VI wall to be climbed without fixing ropes in the mountains of British Columbia. without fixing ropes. In 1972, Spokane super-climber John Roskelley and his partner Roy Kligfield had to endure a two day brush fight just to reach the wall. Roskelley reported: "For the next 2 & 1/2 days we cleaned and nailed the moss filled cracks, leaning jam cracks, and a crux viscous chimney (CAJ, 1972)." They used 50 piton placements and drilled several belay bolts by hand. Roskelley, better known for Himalayan climbs, also made the second ascent of the North America Wall, El Capitan
At least three other Grade VI routes are completed on Dag now. August of 2000, Andy Magness, Jason Magness, Sam Price, Mike Brown, George Ortiz, and Craig Clarence climbed two new routes; Ankles As Far As The Eye Can See
(VI, 5.11, A1, 3 days, 23 pitches, 3 bolts, a few pins), and Ankles Me Boy
(VI, 5.9+, A2, 4 days, 2 bolts). The first all free ascent of a new route was reported in the 2003 CAJ; Riding Skinfaxi
(VI, 5.11d). GLADSHEIM PEAK (9,250 ft)
GLADSHEIM & WEST MOLAR
Photo by Ken Trout
Yellow dashes mark the normal route to the highest summit of the Mulvey Lakes cirque. The south face has had at least two ascents (seen in image above). The hard-to-reach north side has a spectacular ridge with two long 5.10 routes. MOUNT NISLEHEIM (elev. unknown)
Photo by Ken Trout
Nisleheim is probably the second easiest peak to approach, after Gimli. I marked all the routes shown in the West Kootenay Rock Guide as a way to show what is left to be done. From the left, 5.8 (red
), 5.10 (lavender
), 5.9 (green
), and 5.7 (yellow
). Looks like a lot of unclimbed steep rock smack dab in the middle of the face. GIMLI-MULVEY APPROACH
Horrible bush-wacking once guarded the walls of Valhalla. Climbers had to either start hiking from as low as Slocan Lake or charter expensive helicopters. But not now. When the snow melts, fifteen miles of logging road climb thousands of feet up to the Gimli-Mulvey trail head. Three miles of well kept trail climbs 2,200 feet reach Mt Gimli.
At the bivouac there are bear boxes for safe storage of food and a heli-privy to use. However, the goats have not learned how to use the green plastic throne so the bivouac smells like a barnyard. Sleeping in the parking lot with the bears and mosquitoes is another strategy. I prefer an early start from the campground in the town of Slocan, BC.
Photo of bulletin board map at Gimli-Mulvey trail-head.
Zoom in to see the trail.
Photo by Ken Trout
It's a Mirekle (5.8)
When climbing in the Valhallas, the Slocan Bluffs
should not be missed. These lakeside sport climbs require one of the shortest approaches in British Columbia. The crags are located at the town of Slocan, British Columbia; on the east side of the lake. Not really in the Valhallas but less than a mile from either the town's campground or swimming beach. Park on the east side of Slocan's defunct lumber mill and walk in along the old paved road. 80 routes are listed in the West Kootenay Rock Guide.
Photo by M Trout
Funky Earth Mother Chick (5.10b)
Zoom in to see the chicken-wire barricades around the cars at the Gimli trail-head.
Photo by Ken Trout
The animals in these mountains are nuts so look out!
Before you leave your car, build a chicken-wire barricade
to keep the snafflehounds, mice, and porcupines from chewing open your break lines, wiring, and tires. Bear country is no place to get stranded. Experienced climbers are rumored to carry their own chicken-wire because there is not enough at many trail-heads. Only enough wire for three cars was found at the Gimli-Mulvey trail-head, August, 2011.
It seems that British Columbia's grizzly bear
population is increasing. Carrying bear spray and traveling with a least four people is the best advice for bear country. Bear spray must be bought in Canada. At the Mt Gimli trail-head, it might be a good idea for small teams to wait at the cars until others show up and then all hike in together. One personal anecdote - The plastic arm-rest of the Gimli trail-head's privy looked to me like a grizzly tried to take a bite. My wife thought I was exaggerating, until she went for a look.
Mtn Goat crowds the start of Gimli's South Ridge.
Further up, the mountain goats
and snafflehounds invade the bivouac site. Even worse, as the goats begin their daily climb of Gimli's East Ridge, they will begrudgingly crowd climbers at the first belay for the South Ridge of Mt Gimli. Once up on the East Ridge, they also like to knock rocks down on both climbers and their own kids. The summer before I took the above photo, a 300 pound male goat killed a photographer in the Olympic Mountains. The goat gored him and then it stood guard over him while he bled to death. MOUNTAIN GUIDE, BOOKS, CLIMBING SHOP, and GYM David Lussier
is the most active mountain guide for the Valhallas. Book early if you want Mr Lussier to take you up Gimli's Southeast Ridge. summitmountainguides.com
When the snow has melted off the access road and trail, Mr Lussier will often post a condition report on the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
There is currently one guide book and it covers a very small part of the Valhalla Range: West Kootenay Rock Guide
, by Aaron Kristiansen & Vince Hempsall. Their book is mostly about the lower altitude crags along the Columbia and Kooteney rivers. In the alpine zone, Kristiansen & Hempsall include the near-side of the peaks above the Mt Gimli Traihead; Nisleheim, Gimli, and Wolf's Ears. A total of 18 really good alpine rock climbs.
The Nelson, BC, branch of the Vahalla Pure Outfitters
chain is the closest climbing shop to the Valhallas. There is also a Valhalla Pure in Revelstoke and maybe one in New Denver, BC. This is where a copy of West Kootenay Rock Guide can be found. Also, they have a good set of maps for sale in a spiral bound book called Backroad Mapbook
; the Kootenay Rockies edition. Valhalla Pure Outfitters; 213 Mackenzie Ave, Nelson, BC. 250-354-1006 Gravity Unlimited Adventures
is the local gym; 513 Victoria st, Nelson, BC, V1l 4k4. 250-352-6125 or cell: 250-509-1183